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Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard by…

Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard (1921)

by Eleanor Farjeon

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Let me take you back in time some 40-odd years. I’m a young teenager, and I’ve just read Tolkien, and C S Lewis, and Mervyn Peake. I want to read more stuff like that. But I can’t. There’s nothing out there.

This may seem incredible to you young things, used to being able to wander into Forbidden Planet on a whim, and to dedicated science fiction/fantasy sections in every branch of Waterstones. But back in them there days, science fiction was pretty thin on the ground, and fantasy even harder to come by, with the result that I ended up scratching around for whatever I could find and reading all sorts of odd things.

This is one of those things. My local library had a copy, and I took it out any number of times. Eleanor Farjeon is almost forgotten now (and, indeed, was then), other than as the writer of 'Morning Has Broken'; she wrote short, magical stories, in much the same vein as Joan Aiken and Jane Yolen – though Aiken’s are spikier, and Yolen’s more fantastic. Farjeon’s are whimsical; maybe a little more mannered and twee than I realised as a child, set in a bucolic idyll of a historical England that never existed, but sweet for all that.

The framing story is this: Martin Pippin is on his travels when he meets a young farmhand stricken by grief because the girl he loves is being kept from him, locked in her father’s well house, surrounded by an apple orchard, and guarded by six man-hating milkmaids. (How anyone manages to go to the lavatory is a question never answered.) Martin undertakes to release her, and accordingly inveigles himself into the orchard and worms his way into the good graces of the girls by singing them songs and telling them stories. Only the youngest milkmaid, Joscelyn, is hard to overcome …

Long out of print; this is a print on demand edition, and is riddled with flaws (the blurb on the back is for a different book; the songs are laid out with no line breaks), but it doesn’t matter. I’m glad to have a copy. ( )
3 vote phoebesmum | Jul 15, 2012 |
I first read this book many years ago when I was the same age as the youngest milkmaid. I read it again and again, passing through the age of each milkmaid, and have continued to read it over and over as the years have past - I could now be young Joselyn's grandmother, but it keeps the magic alive - and the sweet romance and whimsy are just as lovely. Every time I return to it I am transported. This is my favourite book. ( )
3 vote susan594 | Feb 26, 2009 |
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A clever wandering minstrel rescues an imprisoned young lady when she charms the seven man-hating damsels guarding her by telling them stories, one by one.

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